Saturday Morning Gaming: Slay The Spire
Well, Steam had its summer sale and I did the thing again where I said “okay, if you’re not willing to pay for it if it’s 60% off, you shouldn’t have it in your wishlist.” So I culled the wishlist down and, yeah, picked up a couple of games that were on there.
I’m sure you’ve seen the categories of games out there for stuff like First Person Shooter or Real Time Strategy or Turn-Based or what have you. Well, I also have a handful of head canon categories. These categories include stuff like “full attention games”. Like, you won’t be able to do anything else if you’re playing this game (I’m thinking stuff like Fallout or other games that have a lot of reading). there are games that you can pick up and drop as if nothing had happened (a lot of phone games fall into this category… play while standing in line at the bank and then put it down the moment the line opens up). And There are games that are good for when you’re watching something on Netflix in a second monitor. There’s a time and a place for all of these, of course. If you’ve had a rough day at work and you’ve only got but so much brain to throw around, it’s good to be able to play a game that you can play while watching Netflix (maybe without even turning Netflix on in the first place… who has the energy to watch Stranger Things after a rough day? That’s more of a weekend thing).
Anyway, I thought that there were only but a few games that demanded that little from me while, at the same time, giving so much recreation. Stuff like Lords of Waterdeep and… well, pretty much just Lords of Waterdeep. When I can’t even imagine playing something that will require engagement, I can sit down and play Lords of Waterdeep and immediately feel myself start to unwind.
WELL THERE’S ANOTHER GAME LIKE THIS.
Slay the Spire. It’s even on sale for 50% off until July 9th, but, and here’s the point: had I dropped the full $15 bucks on the game, I wouldn’t have considered even a cent wasted.
Here’s the basic idea: it’s a deck builder. You are an aspirant to Slay the Spire and it’s your challenge to make it to the top. Along the way, you will get in fights, collect cards, have random encounters, fight mini-bosses, find relics that will give you buffs, fight maxi-bosses, upgrade cards, and die. A lot. But it’s fine. You’ll just go back to the base of the spire, pick up your basic starter deck, and try again.
There are three different aspirants to choose from and all of them are pretty distinct:
The Ironclad is the straightforward warrior. Your cards hit the other guy over the head really hard. Your special cards hit really hard and add debuffs to the opponent so you’ll hit them even harder. The theme of the starting deck is something like “stack debuffs on the opponent even as you are hitting them so they won’t hit back as hard.” There are a handful of different more advanced builds I’ve wandered through… the “I don’t care if this hurts me, so long as it hurts you even more” build that adds stuff like burn cards or wound cards to your deck even as you do massive damage is a lot of fun (but you’d best win before reshuffling your deck) but the one that I find most rewarding is “the stronger I get, the harder I hit” builds that rely on adding multipliers to your strength that will then add multipliers to your damage (these aren’t that interesting in round one but, woooo doggies, in round 4, you’ll be making sure that there ain’t a round 5). There’s also one that involves stacking debuffs on the opponent even as you are hitting them so they won’t hit back as hard. It’s a very straightforward and intuitive type. What you see is what you get.
The Silent is the ninja type. Instead of having a build where your thought is hitting the opponent really hard in the current round, this one is built around more subtle ways of killing monsters. The most fun is killing the opponent NEXT round. There are so very many cards that give you stuff next round. Poison your opponent and he’ll take damage next round. Use this card and give yourself extra mana to spend next round. Building up this round for next round… and next round is going to be brutal. But there are also synergy decks. You’ve got cards that will not only do damage but cast “weak” on your opponent. You have other cards that do stuff… but they do MORE stuff to monsters who are weak. So you’ll want a deck full of weakmakers and weakexploiters. I’ve also seen reason to believe that there is a “shiv” build where the goal is to accumulate cards that will give you little weenie cards that are free to cast… but can be buffed to do more damage every turn or buffed to give you more of them every turn or cards that give you bonuses for every time you cast a card and so, if you cast 8 of these, you’ll get 8 bonuses. (Every time I tried to play through with a shiv deck, I got distracted by poison. Man, poison decks are fun. Sure, giving someone 5 or 6 poison doesn’t mean much, but it’s AWESOME when you give a boss somewhere north of 100.) This one is a lot more subtle. I had no idea how to even play her until I died, like 20 times. It’s all about the synergies. You get the right combos and, next thing you know, you’re dancing away from damage and doing dozens of points of damage every turn without having to cast a single card. Thanks, poison!
The Defect is probably best analogized to a technomage. You summon power orbs that will do interesting thing. Lightning does low damage but it does it every turn. Dark does heavy damage but you need a card to kick it off. Ice gives you defense instead of offense. Plasma gives you more mana to spend. And you can get cards that make you a better lightningmancer or better ice farmer or better dark wizard or balance you out between everybody. This one is a lot of fun but I die the most with it. I can consistently get to the third map with the other two characters, I can only get to the second map with this one if I am lucky. But, man, is it fun to play!
This game is a treat. If I have a complaint, it’s that the starter deck is ALWAYS the most boring starter deck. There a handful of tweaks and tricks you can use to make the opening part of the game a little bit more fun… but the first 5 fights or so are a drag… but once you establish what kind of deck you’re building, the game is an absolute hoot.
And then you find yourself wondering… do I rest and give myself 20 (exceptionally dear!) hit points or do I upgrade one of the cards in my deck? Do I spend 50 gold on a healing potion or do I spend 250 gold on a relic that will make my poison hit just a little bit harder?
And you’ll find yourself looking down the map… if I go this way, there’s a shopkeeper… but if I go that way, there’s a mini boss who will have a relic for me… but if I go THIS way, I’ll have 4 different random encounters that might give me some really interesting stuff for the fights to come… and it’s kinda tough as well. Not because it requires twitch skills or anything (it’s turn-based). It’s that you lose hit points so very easily and you get them back only with the greatest difficulty. (So far, I’ve only beaten the final boss ONCE. (And, seriously, I’ve been trying!))
It’s one of those games where you’ll agonize over each little decision and then you’ll probably die anyway. But you’ll know a little more and your deckbuilding will be a little better.
And next thing you know, you’ll find yourself with the energy needed to start up Netflix.
So… what are you playing?
(Featured image is screenshot of the opening screen, taken by the author.)